I’ve been there when it comes to feeling like being healthy is at the top of a mountain that you can’t seem to climb. I’ve been overwhelmed by all the recipes, packaged foods at the grocery store, and information online. I’ve felt like there were too many options, so instead of choosing anything, I ended up doing nothing.
So instead of feeling pressured by all the health products, and information out there, I found a way to eat healthy with ease, enjoyment and freedom. It’s called “crowding out”.
What Exactly Is Crowding Out?
Crowding out is a method I learned during my education at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, and it’s the opposite way that so many of us have been taught.
For most of us that want to go on a diet, lose weight, get healthy or gain energy, we think about healthy food as feeling deprived. If we start to eat healthy, then we have to give up all the other things we enjoy.
But here’s where crowding out comes in. Instead of restricting our “bad foods” which always left me feeling deprived, I focused on ways I can add healthy food to my current diet, as-is.
Think about it. If you decide to eat a salad every day for lunch and have a cookie as dessert. Wouldn’t you be much more motivated to continue on your journey than totally depriving yourself of eating cookies for ever and ever!? That doesn’t sound very practical to me. We all need some dang cookies in our lives!
Why Should You Try Crowding Out?
By giving your focus to the things you CAN eat, versus the things you can’t eat, you’re avoiding that FOMO feeling (Fear Of Missing Out). So by adding more healthy foods to your regular routine, over time you’ll start to “crowd out” the not-so-healthy foods.
For example, when I first started committing to changing my diet I had a really hard time kicking my sugar habit. I was addicted to my daily chai lattes and chocolate fixes and wasn’t ready to give them up. So instead I focusing on eliminating them from my daily routine (which I was having a hard time doing), I focused on adding something new to my routine, which was a green smoothie. Every morning I would start with a green smoothie – and it’s a routine I still stick with to this day. Here’s my go-to recipe: Big handful of spinach or kale, 1 banana, 1/2 ripe avocado, 1/4 zucchini, small bunch of parsley, 4-5 ice cubes, scoop of protein powder and water.
This was the perfect way to add more vegetables to my diet. And over time, I was able to help curb my sweet tooth cravings. So now, instead of the daily starbucks chai latte, I make my own homemade matcha lattes which have taken their place and contain healthy ingredients.
It’s so freeing to realize that your diet doesn’t have to be 100% perfect and healthy right from the start. Let it be a more natural and organic process. You can enjoy a glorious healthy salad full of colorful veggies AND eat that cookie too.
If you’re starting to think that the crowding out method is right for you, then here are my top three tips for getting started…
01. Crowd Out In A Way That Works For You
I’ve noticed that my journey of health looks very different from my friends, and that’s totally okay. Some people prefer to cut out everything – I have one friend who has completely restricted sugar from her children’s diet – and then I have another friend who has a much more relaxed approach to candy and sweets but only eats vegetarian. I feel like I sit somewhere in the middle.
There’s no right or wrong way to use the crowding out method, but my favorite way to do it? By focusing on how many vegetables I’m eating every day. After learning that North Americans are eating far too little vegetables, myself included, I knew that I needed to put my focus on this key area. So with every meal I ask myself how I can add more vegetables to it. The more, the merrier.
Making these simple changes can make a big difference in my overall health. I’m always thinking about what I CAN eat versus what I can’t.
02. Let Go Of Perfection
While crowding out can be a wonderful tool, it’s easy to get hung up on the nitty gritty of it. For example, in the beginning I would forget to add more vegetables to my lunch – which would make me feel guilty.
The truth is I’m a total perfectionist. And for anyone who can relate, you know that perfection can cause us to avoid accomplishing something in the first place in fear of not doing that thing “perfectly”.
So for me, I’m now aware that eating and your diet don’t have to be done a certain way every single day. I’ll have a goal in mind for “crowding out” but if it doesn’t work that day because I ended up grabbing a spontaneous to-go lunch at my favorite beach spot, or we went over to the grandparents house for dinner, then that’s totally okay. Just start back up again at the next meal.
03. Enjoy The Process
Health is a journey, not a destination. I wasn’t able to go from my candy loving past, to my green smoothie present overnight. These things can take time, so just enjoy the ride.
Life truly is about balance. And food should be too. You can have your salad, and eat your cake too.
As you go about this method, I promise you’ll start to see a change in how you approach healthy eating. It will take the pressure off of feeling totally deprived, and help motivate you to succeed.